JERUSALEM — A wedding site inside a kibbutz for Messianic Jews remains closed after an Israeli appeals court upheld a lower court’s order that the Christian owners at the facility must host same-sex ceremonies despite their biblical beliefs.
The owners of Yad Hashmona, a kibbutz or moshav near Jerusalem, believe that their wedding hall was forced into closure after homosexuals in the land flooded them with orders that they knew they could not accommodate. The communal settlement is geared toward Messianic Jews–those who believe in Jesus as being the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.
“We feel God has given us this piece of land in Israel, and it’s a center for believers,” spokesperson Ayelet Ronen told Morning Star News. “To bring gays to get married here, it’s crossing the line. We cannot do that. Our conscience wouldn’t allow it.”
The kibbutz also will not host pro-abortion events, yoga seminars or other gatherings that conflict with the law of God.
In 2009, a pair of lesbians filed suit against Yad Hashmona for declining to host a “marriage” celebration at the moshav. Tal Ya’akovovich and Yael Biran had tied the knot in England the year prior, and workers at the Yad Hashmona hotel, where the wedding hall is located, explained that the celebration could not be hosted at the site because of their biblical beliefs.
“The receptionist spoke so gently and respectfully,” Ronen told reporters.
In 2012, the Jerusalem Magistrate Court ruled against Yad Hashmona, rejecting the hotel owner’s arguments that they should have the right to practice their religion.
“As soon as the defendants opened their doors to all, they cannot close them for those who they believe do not meet the requirements found in the Bible or New Testament, thereby damaging their dignity and sensitivities,” the court ruled, charging the moshav with discrimination in light of a 2000 law.
The judge also declared that rejection of homosexuals constitutes “sexual harassment.”
“Treating gays and lesbians as inferior amounts to sexual harassment. That is a very significant statement made by the court,” explained Ira Hadar, the attorney for the lesbian women, to Haaretz. “I hope that the general public will understand the message and that gays and lesbians are entitled to more than just equality, but also proper and fair treatment.”
But the owners of the hotel were shocked by the ruling, as well as the statements that were made by the opposition during proceedings.
“I feel God’s name was put to shame,” Ronan stated. “They mocked Him in court, calling the Bible ‘a dangerous book with dangerous standards.'”
Yad Hashmona was ordered to pay 60,000 shekels ($17,400) in damages to the lesbian women, as well as 30,000 shekels ($8,700) in attorney’s fees.
The case was then appealed, but in June of this year, Judge Moshe Yoad Cohen upheld the ruling and agreed that Yad Hashmona was guilty of violating Israeli law. As a result of the rulings, the owners of the hotel closed the wedding hall due to fear of further lawsuits, and now the facility is struggling to fund the kibbutz as it had done in the past.
“We had to stop all activities related to weddings in our hotel so we won’t be accused of discriminating against anyone, since the law does not accept the fact that we want to keep our biblical values in our business,” hotel manager Tsuriel Bar-David told Morning Star News. “The fact that we don’t do any more weddings and related events has caused us to lose money.”
Ronan also noted that the closure is due to homosexuals who have flooded the facility with requests after becoming aware of the legal matter and their religious beliefs.
“[T]his morning, more phone calls were made by guys asking about wedding details, and the receptionist was afraid it is a trap done on purpose, and asked for guidance what to say to avoid another lawsuit,” she wrote in an online open letter following the ruling. “Letters of mockery were sent to our reception, and this morning we received phone calls by angry Israelis attacking our place, saying they did not know we ‘believe this foolishness’ or are ‘so old-fashioned.’ Two people called to say they are thinking to cancel their events here.”
Ronan stated that Messianic Jews face a lot of opposition in Israel.
“On the one hand, in Israel we have the Jewish religious people who don’t like us at all. The [ultra-Orthodox] rabbinicals, they hate the believers,” she explained. “On the other hand, you have here the ultra-secular attacking us from the other side [with] the gay community. It’s a very difficult position to be in, and we’re really seeking the Lord to see what will happen.”
“I feel sad that people are getting so far from God and celebrating the victory of sin,” Bar-David added. “I feel shame that this behavior is now officially becoming ‘normal’ and accepted. I feel that we are getting closer and closer to the days when being a follower of Jesus—Yeshua–will not be accepted anymore, and that those who would like to stay faithful will have no choice but to be set apart from the ‘normal’ society.”
The owners of Yad Hashmona are considering further appeals in the matter.
Photo: Morning Star News/Yad Hashmona